There are lots of common questions that the new brewer has to find answers for, and at the same time to learn the ropes of forum useage. The site HOWTOBREW is great, but doesn't cover the basics. AHB does cover the basics, but the nuggets of information are buried. Rather than make yet another how to brew manual, here is a collection of basic facts, questions and the links to answer these questions. New brewers can follow the links, read the topics, and if necessary, then post to that topic rather than starting afresh. It makes the whole knowledge base interactive, rather than static like a tutorial.
Please help by suggesting topics that have been missed, basic facts that you think need including in this post and by your favourite links that answer questions for new brewers. The information and links that people post will be incorporated into the main text and then the posts will be deleted.
How to Use the Forum
Please take the time to read the board guidelines and rules which are at the start of each forum
AHB introduction link
Homebrewing, like any specialised subject has many acronyms. Some very common ones are:
LME Liquid Malt Extract
DME Dried Malt Extract
K&K Kit and kilo. the kit is the tin of LME and the kilo is a kilo of brewing additive.
List of Acronyms
What is Beer
Beer is a mix of malt flavour, hops bitterness, hops flavour, alcohol, carbonation and yeast fermentation flavours. Beer is made from barley, hops, water and yeast. Kit manufacturers have done much of the hard work and all you have to do is use a canopener, tip the contents into a fermenter, add a kilo of extras, top up to 23 litres, add yeast and watch it ferment.
Where to Source Your Brewing Gear.
The easiest way to get into brewing is to buy a complete beginner's setup from a homebrew shop or the supermarket. This means you have everything you need for your first brew.
Where to Buy a Kit From
Where to Source Your Bottles.
Your homebrew shop may sell bottles. Friends will keep bottles for you. Recycling night can be a great time to browse through neighbour's recycle crates. Or buy beer, drink the contents, rinse the bottles out thoroughly and use them. PET are fine. Do store clear PET in a darkened cupboard as light will make your beer taste unpleasant. You can use screwtop glass bottles, but you will need a proper bench top style capper, rather than the very cheap and nasty wooden hand capper. The two handled cappers tend to fracture the necks.
The First Brew
Allow yourself plenty of time. Have the kettle ready with boiling water. Wash all your gear with the cleaner provided in your kit. If there is some sort of no rinse sanitiser supplied, use it. Fit the tap to your fermenter. Fit the ruber o'ring if your fermenter is a screwtop and fit the airlock grommet. Remove the label from the tin of extract. Remove the lid and put the yeast sachet aside. Stand the tin in hot water for 10 minutes to soften the contents. Clean your tin opener. Open the tin and pour into the fermenter, rinse the tin out with some hot water, stir the syrup to dissolve it. Add the kilo pack of dry ingredients. Stir to dissolve. Top to 20-23 litres, stir again. Take a hydrometer reading and record this in your notes. Clean your scissors, snip the top off the sachet and sprinkle on top. Fit the lid and the airlock. Careful when fitting the airlock that you do not push the grommet in. Add some water to the airlock, so that there is about 10mm height of water on each side of the "S".
Cleanliness and Sanitation
The most important part of brewing is cleanliness and sanitation. Every surface that comes into contact with your beer must be as clean as possible. Never use a scourer on your plastic fermenter, this provides very small scrathces that can harbour bacteria. Think about where you place the stirrer and the lid. These should be cleaned too.
Many cleaning products are harsh and harmful if splashed into your eye or allowed to stay on the skin. Be safe with your cleaning products. Store them in labelled containers where children cannot access them.
The Correct Temperature for Brewing and How to Control it
The best temperature for ales to be fermented at is 18-20 degrees and lagers at 10-12 degrees. Before fermenting a lager at 10-12, check with your brewshop that your kit includes a true lager yeast. Many kits are called a lager, but include ale yeasts.
For your first brew, keep the brew as close to 20 as you can achieve. If it ferments at 24, the beer will be drinkable, but 18-20 is ideal.
Maintaining a constant brewing temperature will significantly improve your brew. Depending on your climate, your house, or under your house may have a place that is stable and cool, otherwise there are some simple ways
Have a look at the 100 can cooler post further down this thread on ideas on how to maintain a lower temperature. Brewers also have success with the same idea using an insulated cupboard or an old non working fridge. Even a takeaway food container made up into iceblocks and allowed to thaw out on the lid of your fermenter, with a towel drped over the fermenter help.
Simple Things to Make Your Brew Day Easier
Planning your brew day will avoid unnecessary disasters. Write yourself a step by step brew plan. Other AHB'ers have come up with some clever ideas/tools to help you relax on your brew day.
Help, my beer isn't working the airlock
After about 24 hours, there should be signs of activity that your brew is springing into action. These signs include movement or gloomping of the airlock and more signifiacntly, foam on the surface and a ring of scum on the fermenter at the surface. The layer of foam thickens after a day or two depending on how active your yeast is.
Some fermenters do not seal very well, and air leaks out around the lid rather than through the airlock. So long as your lid is sealed well enough to keep flies, bugs and dust out, your brew will be fine.
Air Tight Fermenter
Is it Ready to Bottle?
After 4-7 days, your brew will have finished working. This can be seen by the lack of movement of air through the airlock, the foam/scum on the surface of the brew decreasing and by stabilisation of the hydrometer reading. The time taken will vary depending on the yeast used, how fresh it was, brew ingredients and brew temperature.
After the brew has stopped, start taking hydrometer readings. When the reading is stable over three days, the brew is ready to bottle. Record the final reading in your notes.
If you are going to use finings (powdered gelatine) now is the time to use them. Dissolve a sachet of finings in a cup of hot water, pour gently over the surface of your beer, reseal your fermenter and bottle the next day.
Your brew will be fine for up to 2 weeks quietly sitting in the primary fermenter until you are ready to bottle. It will actually help to leave it for a week after it has reached its final gravity. If you can move ot to somewhere cooler, this helps too.
Using the hydrometer
The hydrometer measures the specific gravity of solutions relative to water. As your brew fermentes, the yeast change the malt sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide, and the density of the solution changes. This is shown by the hydrometer readings becoming lower.
The hydrometer is a fragile instrument, treat it gently, keep it in its container and do not pour boiling water over it.
Never float the hydrometer in the fermenter to take a reading. Always use a sample test jar and after taking a reading drink the sample or throw it out. If you tip it back into the fermneter, you will infect your brew.
Is it Infected?
The new brewer will do alot of reading and often will worry about infections. If you have started out with new gear, fresh ingredients and the brew started fermenting after about 24 hours, stop worrying. The scum on top of the fermenter often looks suspicious, but it will sink soon. A few small spots may stay on the surface, but most sinks or sticks to the inside of the fermenter. Don't worry about it.
Don't take the lid off and look at your brew. Keep the lid on.
Many brewers are worried by the unusual aroma coming out the airlock, once again, do not worry.
Allow yourself plenty of time to do this job.
Wash out all your bottles with brewery detergent and a bottlebrush. Rinse thoroughly and they are ready to use.
Put a teaspoon of sugar in each 750ml longneck bottle, or half a teaspoon into a stubbie. If you have a sugar measure included with your kit, use that to measure the sugar out.
If you are using carbonation drops, use them and do not put any extra sugar into the bottles. One carbonation drop in a stubbie, two in a longneck.
Use the special adapter tube/valve that came with your kit to fill the bottles. This fits into your fermenter tap and as the filler stem presses on the bottom of the bottle, the valve opens and the bottles fill from the bottom with minimal splashing.
Splashing and associated oxygenation is the enemy of finished beer.
After bottling, store your beers at the same temperature you fermented at for about ten days, this allows the yeast to use the priming sugar and carbonate the beer in the bottles. Make sure they are somewhere dark. After 10 days, move the beer to as cool a locationas possibe. A fridge is ideal, but anywhere that is cooler rather than warmer.
After you have finished bottling, clean all your brewday gear, let it airdry and put it away. To clean the fermenter, rinse the yeast slurry out, add some of your brewery cleaner, top up with water, put the lid on and leave for 24 hours. The scum will then wipe out with a soft cloth. Do not use a scourer. Wipe all surfaces of the fermnenter with the cloth. Keep a clean toothbrush in your cleaning kit and clean the inside of the tap, tap threads including those in the fermenter and the grooves in the lid with the toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly and dry. Then store till you are going to brew again.
Do Crown Seals Need To Be Steralised?
Tips for Making Bottling Day Less Painfull
What temperature Should beers be Stored at?
Is it ready to drink?
Your brew is ready to start drinking as soon as the beer is carbonated, but it will continue to improve for about six weeks.
My brew is flat
You have forgotten to prime the bottles, used maltodextrin instead of sugar, haven't sealed the bottles correctly, haven't stored the bottles at the correct temperature (20-25 degrees) or haven't allowed enough time for the yeast to work in the bottle.
Will my Bottles Explode?
The effects of different ingredients on your brew:
Dextrose adds no exra flavour or body to your brew, only alcohol.
Malt (either dried or liquid) adds body, flavour and alcohol to your brew.
Maltodextrin adds body and some sweetness to your brew.
A good starting point for the ingredients to add to your tin of extract is 500gms dried malt extract and 500 gms dextrose.
Why sugar is not suitable.
Beer is made from malt, hops, yeast and water. Kit brews are made with a tin of hopped extract and a kilo of extra ingredients. These extras include a combination of dried malt extract (DME) liquid malt extract (LME) maltodextrin and dextrose. Plain table sugar or sucrose is avoided, it thins the body of the beer and contributes extra unwanted flavours. Sometimes brown sugar is used in darker beers, and the amount should be limited to 250gms a brew till you are familiar with the extra flavours it contributes to the beer.
recipes for kit brewers this links to another site, and you will not be able to post to it.
http://www.coopers.com.au/homebrew/ This links to another site and you will not be able to post to it.
New to brewing topic
Help me Refine My Proceedure
New to Homebrew scene
Because of the great number of links in this FAQ, some may at some stage show as broken. If you find a link that generates an error page, please send me a PM.
This FAQ is to help new brewers put down their first couple of brews. After reading this FAQ, you may want to move onto the next, FAQ for Advanced Kit Brewing.
Edited by dane, 04 July 2008 - 09:25 AM.